Frequent questions about EHC needs assessments

 Frequently asked questions

  • parents – by writing to the local authority
  • a young person over the age of 16 but under the age of 25
  • the early years setting or school, but only after talking with you first.

It is always a good idea to talk to the school or early years setting before asking for an EHC needs assessment.

We can help you make your request.

Other people, such as your doctor or a health visitor, can tell the local authority that they think your child needs an assessment.

As soon as the local authority gets a request for an EHC needs assessment they must tell you about it.

The SEND Code of Practice says:


In considering whether an EHC needs assessment is necessary, local authorities should pay particular attention to the views, wishes and feelings of the child and his or her parent, or the young person.

The local authority has up to six weeks to decide whether to make a needs assessment. During this time it may ask you, the school and other professionals for information.

It will look at all the information and must then tell you whether it has decided:

  • to start the EHC needs assessment immediately; or
  • that an EHC needs assessment is not necessary

The local authority must tell you why it thinks that an EHC needs assessment is not needed. It must also tell you about:

  • your right of appeal
  • independent disagreement resolution and mediation
  • how to get further information, advice or support

If you disagree with the decision IASS can explain your options to you.

The SEND Code of Practice says:


Local authorities must consult the child and the child’s parent or the young person throughout the process of assessment and production of an EHC plan. They should also involve the child as far as possible in this process. The needs of the individual child and young person should sit at the heart of the assessment and planning process.

The local authority will write to you to tell you what will happen and ask for your views. Your views and your child’s views are really important. IASS can give you information, advice and support to help you with this.

The local authority will ask a number of other people for information about your child. This is called ‘advice’ and it should include information about:

  • your child’s education, health and care needs
  • the desired outcomes for your child
  • the special educational, health and care provision that might be required to meet their needs and achieve the desired outcomes

The local authority must ask for advice and information from:

  • parents (or the young person)
  • your child’s early years setting or school
  • an educational psychologist
  • health professionals who work with your child. This might include a paediatrician, speech and language therapist, physiotherapist or occupational therapist.
  • social care staff
  • anyone else you ask them to contact who may be able to give relevant advice

If your child has a vision or hearing impairment the local authority must also seek information and advice from a suitably qualified teacher.

The local authority should also try to find out your child’s views. You, the school and other professionals may be able to help with this. If you think your child needs someone to help them give their views you can ask IASS for more information about this.

You will have the chance to discuss your child with everyone involved in the needs assessment and you will receive a copy of all the reports when the needs assessment is finished.

If you want information, advice or support during the EHC needs assessment contact IASS. This can include having an Independent Supporter to help you.

You can find out more about advice and information for EHC needs assessments in the SEND Code of Practice sections 9.45 – 9.52.

Sometimes advice and information is already available because other professionals have been working with your child.

The SEND Code of Practice says:


The local authority must not seek further advice if such advice has already been provided (for any purpose) and the person providing the advice, the local authority and the child’s parent or the young person are all satisfied that it is sufficient for the assessment process. In making this decision, the local authority and the person providing the advice should ensure the advice remains current.

Once the local authority has all the information and advice it must decide whether your child needs an Education, Health and Care plan.

An EHC plan is a legal document written by the local authority. It describes the special educational needs that a child or young person has and the help that they will be given to meet them. It also includes the health and care provision that is needed. You can read more about EHC plans on the EHC Assessment page.

Sometimes the local authority will decide that your child has special educational needs that can be met through SEN support. If this is the case the local authority must tell you of its decision within 16 weeks of receiving a request for an EHC needs assessment. The local authority must also tell you about your right of appeal.

If the local authority decides an EHC plan is necessary it must first write a draft plan. It will send you the draft EHC plan and copies of the reports so that you can read it all. You should check that everything you think is important has been included and that you agree with the outcomes and the proposed provision. The local authority will also ask you which school you prefer your child to go to.


You have 15 days to make comments, to ask for a meeting or accept the draft plan.

If you do not reply within 15 days the local authority may assume that you agree with the draft plan.

The last stage is for the local authority to send you the final EHC plan. If you are still unhappy with the plan or cannot agree with the local authority on a school, you have a right to go to mediation and/or to appeal (see below).

If you need help at any stage you can contact IASS.

The local authority receives a request for an EHC needs assessment. The authority must tell parents about this requestThis is the start date
The local authority decides whether an EHC needs assessment is needed. The authority must tell parents about its decisionWithin six weeks of the start date
The EHC needs assessment takes placeThis starts as soon as the decision is made
The local authority tells the parents of the decision not to issue an EHC planWithin 16 weeks of the start date
The local authority sends a draft EHC plan to parents
Parents must respond to the draft EHC plan. They can:
  • agree that the draft is accurate
  • ask for changes
  • ask for a meeting

Parents also state a preference for a school or early years setting

Within 15 days of receiving the draft EHC plan
The local authority consults with the school or early years settingWithin 15 days of parents’ response to the draft EHC plan
The local authority issues the final EHC planWithin 20 weeks of the start date

Sometimes this timescale can be different. See SEND Code of Practice section 9.42.

At any stage you can ask to talk to a member of the local authority’s staff. This will usually be the person named in the letter the local authority sends to you when it receives a request for an EHC needs assessment.

IASS can give you impartial information and advice about the options open to you, and support you through the process. This could include help from an Independent Supporter.   

You also have a right to request independent disagreement resolution and, in some circumstances, mediation.

Find out more 

Between September 2014 and September 2016 local authorities will gradually transfer Statements of Special Educational Need to the new system. When this happens for your child an EHC plan transfer review will take place. 

The review will involve an EHC needs assessment. You, your child or the young person must be invited to a meeting as part of this transfer review.   

Your child’s existing Statement, review reports and other information may be sufficient for the needs assessment as long as you, the local authority and those providing the advice agree that they are. If you feel that they are not sufficient you can ask the local authority to gather more information and advice.

You can read about Education, Health and Care needs assessments in the SEND Code of Practice Chapter 9.

The Local Offer includes more information on the local arrangements for EHC needs assessments.

IASS can give you:

  • information about EHC needs assessments
  • advice and support during the process of assessment
  • details of the local arrangements for Independent Support
  • details of other organisations, support groups and services that may be of help
  • information, advice and support about your rights to make a complaint, seek independent disagreement resolution or mediation